Monday, October 30, 2006

more lying bastards at SCB Bank

More answers needed on Temasek-Shin deal

Re: "Chirayu defends SCB's role in Shin deal", Business, October 28.

Chirayu Isarangkun na Ayutthaya, the chairman of Siam Commercial Bank and head of the Crown Property Bureau, is disingenuous at best when he blithely states that the bank's role in the Temasek-Shin deal was purely to help an indirect partner, Temasek, and further SCB's retail banking reach. Blatantly taking for granted the intelligence of the public, he failed to admit the integral role played by SCB's wholly-owned subsidiary, SCB Securities, who acted as advisor on the deal. Under the leadership of ML Chayotid Kridakorn and his management team, SCBS advised not only on the Temasek-Shin deal but also the prior, cookie-cutter Telenor-Ucom deal, along with the same team of Goldman Sachs and Hunton & Williams, who served as financial and legal advisors, respectively. They would have been directly involved in due diligence, financial and tax structuring, and the crossing of shares when the stakes were initially traded and at the time of the subsequent tender offers. The largest deal in Thailand for a long time, Chirayu must be aware of the substantial advisory fees and huge commissions on the stock trades that were earned.

SCBS would have been closely involved in advising on the "chain principle" transactions - a euphemism for nominee? - for all the companies which became the final shareholders in both the Telenor and Temasek holdings in Ucom-TAC and Shin-AIS, respectively, including the now notorious Kularb Kaew. Tellingly, most - if not all - of these companies have their registered address at Thai Wah Tower II on South Sathorn Road. Chirayu wears many hats. I ask him to speak sincerely and with probity, for all our sakes.

Chingchok on the Wall


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Deputy Thai PM says new Suvarnabhumi airport an embarrassment to Thailand

from the Bangkok Post:

Deputy PM says airport is embarrassing

AoT ordered to stop thinking of expansion


Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula took senior Transport Ministry and airport officials to task yesterday for Suvarnabhumi airport's substandard services, which have become a big source of embarrassment for the country.

A lengthy campaign to project it as a world class airport has only brought embarrassment, he said.

Unhappy about the facilities, he has ordered Airports of Thailand (AoT) officials to stop thinking about expanding the airport and instead spend more energy and time over the next six months to make improvements to its services, according to sources at a closed-door meeting yesterday. The airport should first be worthy of praise for its services before any expansion is undertaken, he was quoted as saying.

Suvarnabhumi can currently handle 45 million passengers a year and officials hope to make it the region's biggest once the airport is fully expanded.

M.R. Pridiyathorn blamed the rush to open the airport for its poor services and stressed the need to rebuild its reputation, said the sources.

"Although the airport and its hardware are considered world class, its facilities are not. This is worrisome and everyone involved must help bring about improvements to the airport because it has been under constant criticism since the day it came into operation," said M.R. Pridiyathorn, who has already used Suvarnabhumi's services three times.

None of the senior officials attending the meeting disagreed with M.R. Pridiyathorn, who is also finance minister, and they promised to quickly get rid of the problems.

Most complaints from travellers have been about insufficient toilets, signs to direct passengers, and a shortage of meeting space, especially at the arrivals lounge.

Transport Minister Theera Haocharoen, his deputy Sansern Wongcha-um and AoT president Chotisak Asapaviriya have all admitted that had the airport's opening been delayed, these problems would not have cropped up. "It's undeniable that the problems resulted from the decision to open the airport too soon when it was not ready," said Mr Chotisak.

The opening of Suvarnabhumi was ordered by the previous government amid warnings that its facilities were not yet ready to offer standard services.

The AoT top executive said the agency had earmarked about 40 million baht to build more toilets inside and outside the terminal by the end of the year.

Fifty toilets will be added outside the airport building and 205 additional toilets will be built inside on the first, second and fourth floors, with some of them occupying areas now being used as the AoT offices, according to Mr Chotisak.

M.R. Pridiyathorn promised to continue a plan of the previous government to build more mass transit lines to transport commuters from residential areas outside Bangkok to the downtown area.

The previous administration picked three lines for construction _ the Red Line from Rangsit to Phaya Thai, the Violet Line from Bang Sue to Bang Yai and the Blue Line route, an expansion of the underground train from Hua Lamphong to Bang Khae and Bang Sue to Tha Phra.

Their future depends on next week's talks, when the deputy premier will assess the benefits of the three routes with key officials at the Transport Ministry, including its minister and deputy, and those from the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority of Thailand and the State Railway of Thailand. But the policy is clear-cut, according to M.R. Pridiyathorn, who wants to see the mass transit lines to end traffic woes in the capital and enable users living in suburban areas to travel to Bangkok within an hour.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thailand's Surakiart fails in UN bid, and rightly so

excellent editorial from The Nation:

Some lessons from the failed UN bid

Thailand and Asean have both been made to look foolish by backing the ill-considered Surakiart campaign

Four valuable lessons can be drawn from Thailand's failed and wasteful campaign to get one of its own in the United Nations' top job. First, the candidate selected by the former government for the job was there for all the wrong reasons. Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was the biggest supporter of Surakiart Sathirathai's bid, thinking naively and selfishly that he could promote himself and Thailand if Surakiart prevailed. Even fielding a candidate for the position would raise Thailand's profile and help spread Thaksin's name around the world. What a cheeky way to promote a country.

Unfortunately, all the campaign to win Surakiart the UN's top job has done is hurt Thailand's reputation and diplomatic practices. Recent efforts have created a lot of criticism among New York-based diplomats, and now it could take years to smooth things over.

The other disappointment is that Thailand had plenty of other good potential candidates, people who would have been much more suitable in terms of personality, intellectual capacity and integrity. Too bad, then, that the Thaksin government opted to be partisan and myopic, refusing to even countenance the possibility that a better candidate existed.

So, it all boiled down to a foolish decision involving foolish people. In the future, the government will have to set up a more reasonable selection process if the country is to successfully put forward candidates for such high-profile positions.

Second, Asean must take some of the blame. This whole situation is something of a slap in Asean's collective face. In fact, this could be one of the biggest diplomatic blunders that the grouping has committed since it admitted Burma. For one thing, Asean staked its reputation and institutional integrity on backing the Thai candidate without first careful vetting his suitability. Of course, most member countries reluctantly supported Surakiart only because Thailand announced his candidacy three years before anybody else. The early bird got the worm, apparently.

This situation also revealed the weakness of Asean when it comes to talking to each other in a frank manner when sensitive issues are in play. None of the member countries had the guts to stand up and say at the beginning that there was no chance the Thai bid would succeed. [ed. a crude and archaic social philosophy known as 'face' destroys SE-Asia, yet again]

At the ministerial meeting in Kuala Lumpur last year, Singapore warned the other members of Asean that the South Korean candidate Ban Ki-moon had the right combination of support, but nobody listened. Of course, solidarity to the point of collective suicide is sort of the Asean way. In the future, Asean will have to learn how to speak out on such issues so it can head off potential embarrassments.

Third, now that Ban looks like a shoo-in for the post, how can Asean reconcile with South Korea, Japan and China, which strongly supported him? Asean's failure to cooperate with three Asian powers also revealed a lack of trust between them. These countries should have agreed on one candidate in the very beginning instead of fighting until the every end. On the surface, Asean seems to have believed that that its candidate would get backing from China and Japan, as well as the rest of the world. Imagine their surprise when the opposite occurred.

If Asean learns nothing else from the competition for the top UN spot, it must accept that its reputation does not carry as much weight as it may have once thought. Asean no longer commands the respect it did in the past. It is withering.

Finally, the Thai government must be held accountable for spending public money on such a foolish errand. The Council of National Security was too generous in allowing the candidate to continue his quest for the top spot even though he had condemned its actions on the night of the coup.

In the past three years, several hundred million baht - which could have be used to build at least 3,000 much-needed schools in the provinces - was wasted on first-class tickets, expensive wine and other perks and amenities. Worst of all, it will soon be payback time. Thailand made plenty of promises during the campaign that are likely to cost the country a fortune in terms of diplomatic reciprocity in the years to come.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Illegal logging results in oen of the worst flood seasons in Thai history

Flooding is probably the most tangible and observable consequence of the corruption and lack of effective leadership at all levels of Thai society.

from The Nation:

Angthong under water, and 7 more drown Health ministry prepares Bt10m for aid as tally of sick hits 100,000

Heavy rain continued to fall in many parts of Thailand as strong currents broke flood-prevention barriers yesterday and left the town of Angthong under 60 centimetres of water.

The Public Health Ministry prepared a Bt10-million budget to help people affected by the floods after the number of sick hit 100,000.

Strong pre-dawn currents burst the barriers at Anthong - piles of sandbags and existing earthen dikes - and submerged government offices, hospitals, schools, and Kasetsuwaphan Market.

Chaiyo, Pa Moke, Wiset Chai Chan, and Sawaengha districts - flooded for nearly 10 days now - also saw water rising.

Governor Wiboon Sanguanpong said floods affected over 10,000 residents in six districts and had damaged over 3,000 rai of farmland. Persistent rain has added to the crisis and prevented officials from assessing damage.

Permanent Secretary for Public Health, Dr Prat Boonyawongwirot, who gave medical supplies to Pa Moke residents, said the ministry had set Bt10 million for a central fund to assist flood victims.

He said nearly 100,000 people in 11 flood-hit provinces had been laid low -suffering conjunctivitis, athlete's foot or diarrhoea.

The floods caused seven more deaths yesterday - three drowned in Sukhothai, one in Tak, one in Nakhon Ratchasima, one in Si Sa Ket, and a student disappeared in strong currents in Prachin Buri.

In Nakhon Sawan, residents in flood-hit Chumsaeng and Kao Lieo districts now suffer foul-smelling stagnant floodwater - and a lack of toilets. Its well-known natural lake, Bung Boraphet, overflowed, inundating 10 tambons in Tha Tako district, while a local market was under 50-centimetres of water.

In Sukhothai town, officials hurried to repair eroded earthen dikes to prevent the rising Nan River from flooding the inner city.

In Phitsanulok, officials gave out 100 pairs of plastic boots to villagers in flood-hit Bang Rakam district to prevent leptospirosis. The province has so far had five cases - but no reported deaths.

In Tak's Phop Phra district, a forest run-off at 5am destroyed one and submerged 10 other homes on the Thai-Burma border.

In Lop Buri, the Pasak Cholasit Dam increased its water release to 35 million cubic metres, after 84 million cubic metres of water poured into the dam yesterday. It is now at 89-per-cent full.

The Royal Irrigation office in Nakhon Ratchasima said Lam Takong, Lam Phra Pleung, Lam Chae, and Lam Mul Bon reservoirs now contain enough water for next year's dry season.

In Khon Kaen's Wang Yai district, heavy rain made the Chi River overflow and flood 9,600 rai of farms; 671 families were affected.

In Si Sa Ket's Uthumphon Phisai district, dozens of homes were under one metre of water following two days of very heavy rain, but people remained positive as the depression had brought much-needed water to drought-stricken crops and would fill reservoirs for next dry season.

The weather bureau said the low-pressure cell - would bring heavy rain to some areas of the lower North, Central, and eastern regions.

Meanwhile, the southwest monsoon would bring heavy downpours in Bangkok this evening and further rain to the southern provinces of Ranong, Chumphon, and Phang Nga. The department is also monitoring another storm - "Bebinca" - now developing in the Philippines.

Ex-government Thai politicians should not be allowed to hide behind resignation

from a letter to The Nation:

I'm delighted to see so many Thai Rak Thai members resigning. However, the reason cited in some cases was to avoid being banned from politics for five years if a court were to determine that Thai Rak Thai and its executives had violated the law, requiring disbanding and banning from politics.

If I am not mistaken, their status at the time of the violation is the issue, not their resignation post facto. [ed. Very true. But given the corruption and incompetence of the judiciary here, and the generally soft-brained press and populace, red herrings like that have a real chance of success].

That's good news for Thailand. Excluding such people from politics and from any government post can only improve the health of the Kingdom.

chaos as predicted; difficult check-ins and plenty of lost luggage at Suvarnabhumi

from The Nation:

Lost baggage, crashed computer check-in systems, shouting passengers - AOT calls opening day a '75% success'

It took the Korean visitors three hours to get their luggage, and they left no one in doubt as to their displeasure. A computer system crash forced staff into the unfamiliar role of manually checking-in passengers. Then more bags were lost and a scrum formed around the "Lost and Found" office. Flights were delayed time and again. Snafu was the order of the day.

Utter chaos for Suvarnabhumi's opening? Definitely not, say the airport's spin doctors.

Officials and system consultants shrugged off the teething problems and expressed complete confidence that Suvarnabhumi Airport would soon be free of "hiccups".

"We are 75 per cent satisfied," Chotisak Asapaviriya, president of Airports of Thailand Plc, said yesterday. "There were some minor problems that have upset us."

At 11am, the centralised check-in system crashed, first paralysing 11 counters of Thai Airways International and later spreading to 13 counters of Nok Air and some international airlines.

Ground staff resorted to using computer notebooks and filling out boarding passes by hand.

According to reports, many passengers on a variety of flights waited for at least two hours to get their luggage. Over 100 visitors from Incheon, arriving on flight OX301, vented their anger at Thai Airways International's counters. They shouted at THAI ground agents when three hours passed and still their luggage had not appeared. [ed. I don't feel bad for Thai Airways' ground crew, as they are typically the most officious arrogrant pricks imaginable]

Passengers on other flights encountered similar problems. Those on TG343 from Jakarta also waited for three hours. TG 917 from London landed at 3pm and the designated carousel was empty until 5pm. To the dismay of first-class passengers, they retrieved their belongings at the same time as economy-class travellers.

"The Lost and Found counter was flooded with complaints," said a ground officer who asked not to be named.

"Passengers of airlines including THAI and Aerosvit Airlines faced the same problem," said one AOT official.

Air Chief Marshall Chalit Pukbhasuk, chairman of the Council for Democratic Reform's committee in charge of the airport opening, visited the facility at 7am. He acknowledged the foul ups but said all units were attacking the mishaps one by one.

"Problems are common for the first operating hour of a new airport. We should know better later on," he told a swarm of reporters.

AOT's Chotisak said it took time for ground crews to transfer bags from planes to conveyer belts due to the delay in the relocation of baggage handling equipment from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi. THAI supplies the AOT with the baggage-handling equipment.

A fierce overnight storm had thrown THAI's schedule for its migration programme completely out of whack. As of 7am, only 80 per cent of the removal was complete.

"The conveyor system functioned well, but there was a problem transferring luggage from the aircraft to the conveyor belts because baggage lorries had not arrived [from Don Muang]," Chotisak said. "This is a minor problem and will not happen again once the transition period is over."

About 200 suitcases were also found left behind at the airport after some THAI flights took off for domestic and international destinations. [ed. the phrase 'goddamn asshole motherfuckers' comes to mind]

THAI president Apinan Sumanaseni was sure that his airline's system functioned well, but the problem could lie with the baggage handling system, which is under AOT's supervision. [ed. no accountability, pass the blame while denying the problem even exists; uniquely Thai, this incompetence and dishonesty.]

"We are contacting the bag owners to send them their belongings. This is a big blunder happening at THAI," he said.

Somchai Swasdipol, director of Suvarnabhumi Airport, said AOT is investigating the matter. The bungling could have arisen from the slow transfer of luggage rather than any trouble with the actual baggage handling system, he said.

The botched baggage handling was partially attributable to flights arriving late. About 17 flights were overdue, 45 minutes in the worst case. Most departing passengers anticipated the delay and arrived at the airport well in advance.

The first commercial flight to alight at Suvarnabhumi was also 20 minutes behind schedule. Flying from Kiev, the Aerosvit Airlines plane landed at 4.30am, instead of the original time of 4.10am. It landed at the same time as an EVA Airways flight from Amsterdam.

"Aerosvit's flight was delayed at the originating port, not because of technical problems at Suvarnabhumi," the AOT official said.

Upon arrival, the first passengers received commemorative souvenirs from AOT chairman Srisook Chandrangsu and his management team, who waited in front of Gate E4. One of the passengers was a local from Udon Thani who was unaware that his plane would put down at the new airport.

"I'm confused. Don Muang is more familiar to me as I don't know the traffic network of Suvarnabhumi," he said.

Aerosvit Airlines also operated the first flight from Suvarnabhumi. Bound for Kiev, it left at 5.40am. It took four minutes for each passenger to check in, instead of the normal two minutes at Don Muang, as staff needed time to get used to the new IT system.

Cathay Pacific also operated a flight from Hong Kong, but with only a 55-per-cent load factor rather than the usual 80 per cent.

"Passengers were worried about convenience on the first day of operations," [ed. as well they should be] said Yongyut Lujintanont, marketing manager for Thailand and Burma. The cabin factor should return to normal today, he said.

The chaotic environment on the first day also dulled the appetite for shopping among passengers. Most of the visitors concentrated on checking out the airport's amenities. Some of the duty free shops were still being fitted out and were not open yet. [ed. typical.]

A manager for King Power Duty Free Shop said total sales on the first day were only Bt3,000-Bt4,000, less than 10 per cent of what the company used to ring up at Don Muang. However, she was optimistic that more customers would come later.